Making New Canning Shelves

One of the problems with my old canning shelves is that they are really just bookcases. I can’t do much to adjust the height of each shelf and I either have to stack my jars on top of each other, which is not advisable for a lot of reasons, or waste a lot of space. It has been frustrating, because in order to store the number of filled jars I have, I do end up having to stack them. This can lead to tumbles off the shelf as well as making the jar that is stacked on unseal itself. Now I’ve only actually had the jars unseal twice. It is something I am religious about checking before using any food. And we’ve had jars fall off the shelves before more than a few times, but so far nothing has ever broken.

It was well past time that we did something about it, but we couldn’t spend a lot of money on it. Well, the cost to us of building a canning cabinet that is 6 feet high with shelves spaced one inch higher than my tallest canning jar apart all the way up, is shaking out at $18.20. $10. 08 for 4 2 x 4’s, and $6.67 for a third of a 2 lb box of screws, and the remainder $1.46 in sales tax. Our county is ridiculously high with the sales tax at 8.7%. Still, under $20 for a 6 foot by 3 foot by 2 foot, solid wood cabinet is nothing to sneeze at.

How did we manage to do that, you may be asking yourself? We made a huge score of very nice, free, wooden pallets last fall, with the wood spaced in such a way that a vast majority of it was salvageable. We could only get boards no longer than 27 inches, which is why the cabinets are two feet of usable space across. They are technically 27 inches wide, but only 24 inches usable. We are not quite finished, we still have to put the top on, but I have the first two videos of how we took apart the pallets and how we built the cabinet up to the midpoint and the other will be coming when we finish it up this weekend.

In other news, our duck Zoe is having some foot problems. First she lacerated it pretty bad and when we were tending to that, we noticed she had bumblefoot, so after the laceration healed we managed to get the bumblefoot scab off and dug out some of the core. I am not sure we got it all, but we couldn’t see more. We packed it with triple antibiotic ointment and wrapped it up and she’s been in a hospital cage in the duck coop to keep her off it and to keep Wade, our drake, off of her. He’s feeling his oats and trying to breed with everything with feathers now that he feels mating season is coming up. I bring her greens once a day and she has her own water and feed in the cage with her. She comes into the house every other day and gets a bath in the bathtub and we check her foot, put on more ointment, and wrap it with fresh gauze and vet wrap. We let her out one day, but Wade was right on her, so she’ll just have to stay in the cage another week or so until she can run from him.

I am worried about one of our rabbits, Cinnabun. I think she might be sick. She’s lost a lot of weight. I don’t see mites and I don’t see diarrhea, but she’s a big rabbit and I’d say she’s lost 2 pounds. She doesn’t seem uncomfortable, though, and she is eating and drinking her water. She’s our oldest red and she’s partially blind, but she’s only 2 years old. And she’s a love. She’s a fantastic mother and has good litters. I don’t want to lose her, but I am going to have to keep a sharp eye on her.

The turkeys are doing great. They look beautiful and are fully feathered. I hope Gina will start laying soon. When she was hurt last February by the owl attack, it took 8 months to grow back the feathers the owl’s talons had dug out when it gouged down her back. Turkeys don’t lay when they are regrowing feathers, and by the time they were all back in, it was winter and turkeys don’t lay in the winter. Or at least Royal Palms without supplemental lighting don’t. I have not seen George and Gina mating yet, but it should start any time now. Gina usually goes broody around April, and eggs usually start in March.

My three Barnevelders are laying. They laid sporadically throughout the winter, but are getting a little more frequent now. The Leghorns are laying, too, but the rest of the chickens have not kicked it into gear yet.

The ducks are laying 2 to 5 eggs a day from 6 females. Zoe isn’t laying right now, probably due to the healing injury.

We still have to buy eggs as we are not getting enough for the four of us, but I think in another month we will have enough that we won’t have to supplement anymore. I am looking forward to that.

We’ve Got New Breeders

Aside from Zander, who I showed you previously, I have picked out a new buck and a new doe from our grow outs. Jasper is a New Zealand white buck with all of the large hindquarters of his grandfather Leo, the personality of his father Starbuck, and the fur quality of his grandmother Serenity, his mother Serena, and his father. He’s also got the larger, unbent ears I’ve been trying for. He is the culmination of what I’ve been breeding for for the past 3 years and is just a love.

Ella is a black doe kit out of Ruby and Starbuck. She has her mother’s personality and long body type and her father’s fur quality and she also has nice hind quarters, though that is more of a fluke. She also has the unbent, larger ears. Honestly her black fur is the number one reason we chose her, though if she had a bad personality, like the gorgeously colored buck kit we had planned on keeping until he got bitey, we wouldn’t have kept her. We want to breed her with our broken buck Zander to try for more brokens.

The younger kits are all growing up nicely. There are 12 between the two litters. I think we’ll have two different butcher batches because the one litter is smaller than the other and will probably take another week or two to hit weight.

The garden is doing really well. I am so thrilled with how much produce we are getting off of it already.

It is really nice to have cut our produce bill down so low already and to know it will continue through the season. I haven’t bought greens in 3 weeks and we actually got some broccoli already.

Gina, the turkey, is no longer limping and her feathers are coming back in nicely on her back now, after months of being half naked, poor thing. Wade’s limp is getting better enough that he is mating with the ducks again. It was bad enough, whatever he did, that he stopped mating them for 3 weeks.

Not too much else going on right now.

Kindling, Gardening, and Hurt Birds

Kalia kindled yesterday. She had just one kit again, but she’s getting old. Luna Blue was due on the 8th and nothing, so I think she missed. I was hoping she’d have a big enough litter I could give Kalia another kit to raise so hers wouldn’t be alone, but it looks like a no-go. I’m not sure why Luna missed. The only other time she missed was with Alex when it turned out he was sick. She had a litter of 6 last time. I think it might be Starbuck, but the four week old kits were all fathered by him. That was before the abscess on his shoulder showed up, though. So maybe his immune system is not doing well. I’ve read that can lead to low sperm count in rabbits.

It will be a while before Zander is old enough to sire kits. Leo is still out of commission due to illness and may never recover. We may very well be putting him down the next time my husband comes homes. We do have a four month old buck that could father kits in 2 more months if we kept him, which I wasn’t planning on. He’s very sweet tempered though and does have all of the qualifications for a good meat buck.

I need to make the decision soon on Persephone and Serenity. Persephone is still young, she just doesn’t seem to be shaking this. Serenity is getting old, but I really like her personality and she seems like she is actually recovering. But I have two doe kits right now that are coming up beautifully and maybe it is just time to stop trying to nurse them through this (it has been months) and replace them. One of the doe kits is Serenity’s granddaughter, but there is no off spring from Persephone, which would mean Phoebe’s line would end. Still, there is Piper’s line and Serenity’s line. Maybe I just need to bite the bullet.

If Serenity and Persephone go, that leaves Luna Blue, Serena, and Kalia as white does and Ruby, Firefly, Bonfire, and Cinnabun as red does. Kalia is pretty much too old to give good litter sizes anymore, so that leaves just six production does. I have thought of getting a red buck or a broken red buck. We’ll see. I don’t like just having one working buck, but Zander will be big enough soon enough.

On the garden front everything is growing well. Almost everything is planted, I am just waiting on cantaloupe for hotter days. We are having a very warm, very good start to the gardening season and I am already harvesting kale, chard, chives, oregano, sorrel, blood-veined sorrel, pak choi, and three types of lettuce. I should not have to buy any greens until October and November at this rate unless the lettuce bolts. The tomato plants are really taking off. Two of the ones in the house are ready for me to start hardening them off for transplant. I will have one Opalka and one Lillian’s Yellow Heirloom for sure. The basil I cloned is doing well, also. This is the first time I have ever cloned basil, so I am happy it worked.

Gina still has not fully recovered from her injuries. She spends a lot of time resting in the nesting box. She hasn’t laid eggs since she got hurt. Turkey eggs are my favorite, but what are you going to do? Her feathers are finally coming back in along her back. It looks terrible, but not as bad as raw skin looked. At least the hawk has moved on. I think George hurt him pretty bad when he tried to protect Gina.

Wade has a hurt leg, too. We caged him for 3 days to force him to rest, but let him into the coop with the rest of the ducks at night. He is walking better, but still limping and still holding one leg up when he stands. No signs of bumblefoot and it seems more like a leg injury than a foot injury. If it starts getting worse again, I will cage him for a full week. But it is hard on him, being a flock animal. He wants to follow the rest of the ducks around. They do stay with his cage part of the day, but it makes him sad when they go away to other parts of the yard and he can’t follow.

Quick Update

I’ve been sick for quite some time and so haven’t really been taking the time to keep up with the blog. I do post on the youtube channel a lot, because that just requires me to talk with a camera and not sit down and actually formulate thoughts. Despite this long illness, I’ve managed to get quite a lot accomplished between now and the last few months of summer.

I’ve filled 3 bookcases that are six feet high with food that I’ve canned, most rows are double stacked and 3 jars deep. I’ve got two more shelves filled with winter squashes and one more shelf filled with home canned food on a 4th bookcase. I feel really good about what I was able to grow this year and more than made my money back on the garden investment.

The rabbits are doing well and I should have 4 does kindling this weekend. I will get some solid reds this time as I did a red doe/red buck pairing. I’ll also get two sets of solid whites and then one set of mixed kits from a red/white pairing. Assuming they all are pregnant. All 4 are nesting like mad, but Luna nested like mad the last two times she missed and Serena did the last time she missed as well. Kalia and Ruby are both showing other signs of impending motherhood as well, though, so I’m pretty sure we’ll at least get the mixed litter and the red litter.

The ducks are finishing up their molt and looking really pretty again. I got 2 eggs today after going a few weeks only getting 1.

My tom turkey George finished his molt and looks gorgeous. My hen turkey Gina is all bedraggled and in the middle of a molt, yet she is still laying. Not sure how that happens as it was my understanding that they don’t lay while badly in molt. Mabye that is just chickens and ducks?

The 3 new pullets started laying couple of weeks ago and now their eggs are up to size. Both Auracanas and the other leghorn are laying, too.

The garden is winding down, but I am still getting herbs, sorrel, kale, chard, celery, and lettuce to harvest. I have broccoli with heads on it growing. I have managed to plant 50 cloves of garlic, though I’d like to triple that. We haven’t had a frost yet, so we still could get the garlic in. I need to clip and transplant my strawberry runners. I do have frost blankets ready to save some things.

I want to build a small hoop house over one of the garden beds and maybe grow a few things over the winter.

We may be taking our son out of high school to home school. We’ll make that decision by weeks’ end. He’s not learning well there. Some of the classes are out of control. He’s frustrated.

Anyway that’s the quick version of what I’ve been up to.

See Me Interviewed

I was interviewed last month by The Homestead Nation and it went up on youtube on Tuesday night. It talks about how I am raising meat animals, a big garden, and trying to be as self-sufficient as possible on half an acre in the city and what brought me on this journey. It was a really fun interview. Brad and Tommy are great.

I have found The Homestead Nation to be an excellent resource for all kinds of information in regards to this lifestyle. They also cover some preparedness issues. If anyone is interested in seeing it, it is here:

It’s a little over half an hour long, so make sure you have a chunk of time if you are going to watch it.

When Box Fans Attack…Or I Broke My Nose

Last Wednesday I broke my nose. And gave myself a mild concussion. It was the stupidest thing, really. I had a box under the window that I was sorting through. One of those boxes that when you are in a hurry to clean up you just throw everything into to get it out of the way and then at a later date sort through and put the stuff away. Well, I was sorting it and I must have pushed it over and caught the cord on the box fan because the next thing I know it is crashing down on my face. My glasses flew across the room and I started bleeding. I had cut the bridge of my nose and was also bleeding down my throat, which is a really hard type of nose bleed to stop when you can’t pinch your nose because of the pain.

I cried. In fact I don’t remember crying so hard since I was 33 and had my hysterectomy and a nurse screwed up on my painkiller pump and didn’t put any into my IV bag. I was able to get into the doctor the same day, but it’s a clean break and there wasn’t much they could do since it didn’t need to be reset. I go for a follow up on Thursday.

It gave me black eyes, but they weren’t too bad since I put ice on right away. I mostly looked like someone who had failed at removing smudged eyeliner for a few days and had massive bags under my eyes, like an inch long and full of fluid. And of course my nose was swollen. We got my glasses fixed the same day, but she loosened the nose pads for the swelling. I need to go back and have them tightened again now that the swelling has gone down some. It’s not completely gone, but it’s better. And my black eyes are sort of a faded greenish yellow and less baggy. With my glasses on you can’t really tell anymore.

I haven’t driven yet between the painkillers and concussion, but think I will be able to in another couple of days. I hope so, anyway, as my husband just went back up to Alaska tonight. Anyway, that’s why I haven’t blogged for a while.

Yesterday was my daughter’s birthday and my son made the above cake from scratch using India Tree natural food dyes and sprinkles. I wasn’t up for baking a cake and my husband, son, and daughter went out to Korean food without me.

I am doing what I can with rabbit care and the kids are taking care of the birds completely. My husband was doing the cooking this week and my daughter is taking over now for the time being.

We have had to do a lot of canning this week, but I mostly just talked my husband through everything. Tomorrow it will be talking my kids through it. I feel like a total space cadet, but everyone is being very good with picking up the slack and Mom is pitching in some, too.

The garden is really coming on strong and I saw my first coloring tomato. We’ve had green ones for weeks, but today was the first day I saw any color on one and I am excited.

Today I dried 8 trays of basil and 1 tray of garlic. The garlic was the last of what I had from last year’s braid. We got a new braid earlier this week since my garlic crop failed. My house smells like an Italian restaurant right now.

As soon as the husband returns from work in 2 weeks we will be butchering the meat chickens. I hope I am feeling much better by then because it is going to take all five of us to do 60 birds. If we can set me up with a table and a chair I think I will do fine. It is mostly when I am standing that I get a little dizzy and unsteady. My turkey George is completely healed from his injury. His mate Gina is not currently broody. The ducks are doing well. The new laying pullets have been integrated with the laying hens.

We weaned the two foster kits off of Phoebe today. Then in a couple of days we will put Phoebe’s kit in with them, too. I sexed them today and the two reds are a boy and a girl and the white is a girl. The boy can stay with the girls for another 2 weeks but then will have to be separated. The next set of kits coming up is doing really well and growing strong. We have not lost any rabbits to the heat, thank goodness, but have a lot of fans on them to help them stay cool in our 80 and above temps.

Anyway, that’s what I’ve been up to and why I’ve been so quiet.

A Lot Going On

I haven’t posted in a couple of weeks. I’ve had a lot going on. We butchered 8 rabbits earlier in the week and then last night I cut them up. I made a video for my kids to watch since they want to learn how to do this and I figured they could watch it over and over again before trying for themselves.

We had 2 rabbits kindle and another one miss, the first weekend of July. We are skipping a month of breeding due to the heat and won’t breed again until the night of the full moon. I’ve had two misses this spring and summer and it was a different buck each time, but it was always the buck housed on the second tier and not on a lower tier of cages. Now that I have individual fans on the bucks, especially the second tier one, I am hoping it won’t happen again. Of course we have been in the low 70’s this week instead of the 80’s and 90’s, so I think any temporary sterility that is going on will hopefully pass.

This time around Firefly had 7, but the runt died and Persephone had 5. Luna Blue missed.

I’ve been drying herbs like crazy, both on the wall and in the dehydrator.

My Nesco dehydrator broke after one week of use. I won’t ever be using their machines again. It just stopped working. It’s not like I was running it non-stop either. Apparently this happens quite often with their dehydrators. If it hadn’t been a gift I would have read all the reviews first and certainly wouldn’t have bought one myself. I ended up ordering my Excalibur finally and I am thrilled with it. It is much better of a machine and dries more evenly to boot. I’ve done a lot, but I have a lot more to do. I want to supply the needs for the year as much as possible and get all the medicinal herbs and flowers ready for making medicine as well.

I have been studying a lot on how to do the herbal medicines, reading and watching youtube videos. I also bought a very good book (so far) on herbal medicine for beginners. And I’ve been keeping a notebook with the different herbs and what they do and will be adding recipes to it as I make them.

I can’t remember if I talked about our turkey tom George and the hawk, but he is doing much better now, and the hawk has not been back since their fight. He is almost walking without a limp now and has been able to get up on the roost again at night for the past two nights. He is afraid to get down, though. Probably worried about jarring the sore leg when he lands. We just lift him down in the morning. He’s a big boy, at least 20 pounds, but he’s very cooperative so that helps. And the chicken we thought the hawk had got showed up at head count last night after being missing for a couple of weeks. I don’t know if she was just too scared to come home and was off sitting on a nest being broody somewhere. But I was thrilled she came back, especially when we were sure the hawk had killed her and carried her off. Small miracles, I guess.

The garden has been going crazy. I’ve picked 5 zucchini this week with more coming, peas, radishes, chard, lettuce, sorrel, basil, thyme, marjoram, calendula, sage, strawberries, blackberries, blueberries, and raspberries. I’ve got green tomatoes, several immature crookneck squash coming, some small peppers, and lots of green beans coming on. There are baby watermelons beginning and I will have two cucumbers ready in a few days.

Here is the most recent garden update.

I really love this growing method. It is the best one I’ve ever used and by far the most successful.

Well, I hope that catches things up. I will try to post a little more often.